Quest for the Best: The Area's Best Mac & Cheese

By+Life Events Media Staff

In each issue of Life+Spaces, we venture out on a quest to find the best in our area. For each issue, our staff votes on a category that we know you’ll love just as much as us. As winter settles in for the next few months, we made it a point to find something that would make you feel cozy. Our selected category? Comfort food. Specifically, the ultimate comfort food: mac and cheese. We went in search of local restaurants that featured mac and cheese on the menu and we narrowed it down to these irresistible, to-die-for, must-try dishes. The end result? Well, let’s just say you’ll thank us later.

 

McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk

Irish Mac & Cheese with Bacon


333 Nibco Pkwy
Elkhart, IN 46516
(574) 293-2830
www.mccarthysontheriverwalk.com

Located next to NIBCO Water and Ice Park in Elkhart, sits classy and elegant McCarthy’s on the Riverwalk. Prepared by the excellent hand of Chef Matthew, this delicious dish of mac and cheese is a far cry from the mundane boxed mac and cheese from your childhood! Using all fresh ingredients, McCarthy’s offers a tasteful and beautifully plated meal with numerous optional toppings. 

We opted for the “Irish Mac and Cheese” with bacon. Needless to say, we were not disappointed. The dish was a brilliant blend of al dente penne noodles, smoked cheddar cheese and bacon bits, covered with cracker and panko breadcrumbs, and garnished with parsley. This combination results in a masterfully layered dish. The breadcrumbs offer a unique texture giving the consumer a light crunch with a pop of bacon. Below that layer, the tender penne noodles are situated offering a creamy center with a tangy zip. A well-proportioned dish, the different toppings are found in every bite. The ingredients are superbly balanced, giving a consistent taste from start to finish.

We chose to pair our meal with a sunshine bourbon and took our seats at the bar. Looking around at the lovely Riverwalk, listening to the personable staff interact with fellow customers, and watching one of the big-screen TVs placed throughout the building, we fell in love with not only the excellent food and drinks, but with the atmosphere. Looking for the perfect fulfilling meal for fall? Try the Irish Mac and Cheese and be prepared to be wildly satisfied.

 

Chicory Cafe

Mac & Cheese Variations


105 E Jefferson Blvd, #103
South Bend, IN 46601
(574) 234-1141
www.chicorycafe.net

The Chicory Cafe is not just a charming coffee shop and South Bend-staple for a meeting. As we went in search of “the best mac and cheese,” we found out that the New Orleans-themed cafe just so happens to have some of the best mac and cheese options in the area. With over six different flavor options on the menu, Chicory Cafe is the place to go to sample many twists on the classic. Their menu items include “Cajun Sausage” mac, “Bacon Bacon” mac, “Traditional” mac, “Roasted Vegetable” mac and even “Cajun Crawfish” mac and cheese! 

These unique takes on the traditional dish make Chicory Cafe the place to go to get your mac and cheese fix. Owners Phil Shriver and Jeff Morauski have perfected their recipes with a blend of cheeses like white cheddar, parmesan and a very expensive, top-secret mystery cheese. They even have their own signature hot sauce if you want to turn up the heat.

The restaurant was recently remodeled offering more dining space for yummy dinners and lunches. Chicory also caters, making it a great option for small parties and lunch meetings. 

 

South Bend Brew Werks

IPA’s BFF
 

216 S Michigan St
South Bend, IN 46601
(574) 334-0356
www.southbendbrewwerks.com

We know there’s a lot of skepticism surrounding the concept of love at first sight. Well, it’s a real thing and we found out at South Bend Brew Werks. We fell in love with everything about this place from the very start. Located on South Michigan Street in the heart of Downtown South Bend, Brew Werks is the perfect blend of old and new. The brewery recycles bits and pieces from local establishments to make up their venue and the undeniable charm that accompanies it (chairs from the old St. Joe High School and a bar and tabletops made from the reclaimed Beacon Bowl bowling alleys are just a few examples). They also run a Beer4Good program that has raised $25,000 for their three community partners (La Casa de Amistad, The Music Village and Neighborhood Resources Connection) since last September—just from selling their craft beers.

Brew Werk’s new menu boasts five different twists on the classic macaroni and cheese. We opted to sample “IPA’s BFF” as it is designed to pair well with the bitterness of an IPA which seemed appropriate considering the venue. And let us tell you, it. did. not. disappoint. This dish consists of chicken (although we substituted the chicken for roast beef and think this should be a permanent option!), IPA-soaked organic cranberries and habanero cheddar sauce topped with baked provolone and garnished with parsley. The cranberries were a deliciously unexpected burst of sweetness that complemented the spice of the habanero perfectly. Looking for a gluten-free option? No problem. This dish can also be ordered with gluten-free noodles or zoodles (zucchini noodles). Bonus: all ingredients are locally sourced.

Be sure to pair with an IPA for the ultimate dining bliss.

 

Temper Grille

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese
 

1213 E University Dr
Granger, IN 46530
(574) 273-0443
www.tempergrille.com

Temper Grille Chef Sean Kelley doesn’t just make macaroni and cheese. He takes his brush to it and creates it. 

The owner of the popular Granger restaurant is so secretive about the four cheeses that go into his delightfully decadent mix that his staff and children don’t even know the exact blend. 

The number one item on the menu, Kelley says, is the macaroni and cheese. It is made with scientific precision and, at the same time, lots of love. “That’s what food is,” he explains. Our fortunate group tried the lobster version, but he also offers roasted pepper, blackened shrimp and smoked pork belly choices. 

It’s obvious that one of the first recognizable ingredients as the fork slides through the cavatappi (corkscrew) pasta is the butter on the crispy crust. When preparing the lobster, Kelley says he uses only the best pieces – the claw and knuckle meat – and that adds to the luxurious feel of the dish. The creamy combination of cheese, pasta, large meaty pieces of lobster and a crunchy topping make it a worthy splurge. And it’s a lot easier to eat than a whole lobster (no special utensils or bibs needed). 

Kelley also makes a gluten-free mac and cheese, but says that requires 24 hours’ notice.

Because this is a tapas restaurant, we had to enjoy more of the menu, right? The Chicken Marsala, Steak Bites and Baked Brie are well known and well loved. They didn’t disappoint. We were fortunate enough to grab one of those last beautiful fall evenings as we sat outside and enjoyed a glass of crisp Sauvignon Blanc and toasted the five-year anniversary of the restaurant and the summer behind us.

 

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

Lobster Macaroni & Cheese
 

902 E University Dr
Granger, IN 46530
(574) 968-9700
www.ruthschris.com

A cozy booth in the R Bar or a table in one of Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s elegant dining rooms is the place where classic meets classy. In addition to their world-class USDA Prime cuts served on a 500-degree, sizzling plate, there are many sumptuous side dishes available. The “Lobster Mac and Cheese” is a recent addition which stands alone as a dish onto itself!

The manager Tim Ruys stopped by to help in our selection of a perfect wine to pair with the pasta as Chef Ivan Cruz personally presented this decadent dish. The classic elbow macaroni comes smothered in a rich, jalapeño-cheddar sauce with heavy cream. A generous portion of fresh lobster-claw meat is blended throughout and is finished with mouthwatering, melted cheddar and Swiss cheese, and sprinkled with chives.

Light, citrus tones of the recommended Pinot Grigio complemented the creamy sauce with shellfish and made each forkful even better than the one before! From the first bite to the last, Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s Lobster Mac and Cheese makes the top of our list in this season’s quest for the best macaroni and cheese!

 

Evil Czech Brewery

Mac & Cheese Variations
 

3703 N Main St
Mishawaka, IN 46545
(574) 855-3070
mishawaka.evilczechbrewery.com

Serving up more than five different types of mac and cheese, Evil Czech is the place to go to get in touch with your inner fat kid. Evil Czech is the new brewery and sister restaurant of Corndance Tavern. The brewery is the creation of George Pesek along with Drew Sachau, the trusty captain and chef running the ship serving starchy goodness daily. Their five menu choices for mac and cheese include “Mushroom Truffle Mac,” “Public House Mac” (a blend of four cheeses with a pretzel crust), “Menage a Trois Mac” (a mixture of pork carnitas, pork pastrami, smoking goose bacon, and pickled jalapeños topped with pretzel crust), “Carne Asada Mac” (steak fire grilled over hardwood charcoal, mixed in a bourbon mushroom cream), and finally, the “Bangers Mac” (jalapeño cheddar sausage, cheese matrix with pretzel crust and Serrano chili chutney). 

Not only are all of these options out of this world, but the brewed beer is amazing, too! On another note, Evil Czech’s “Lightning Lunch and Sunday Brunch” is an all-you-can-eat utopia with tons of small plate options, all made from local food vendors. Evil Czech is definitely worth a trip and may just become your new favorite spot!

 

Scotty’s Brewhouse

Lakehouse Mac
 

4340 N Main St
Mishawaka, IN 46545
(574) 807-0655
www.scottysbrewhouse.com

You know you’re in a for a good time when you open the doors to Scotty’s Brewhouse, located on Main Street in Mishawaka, just minutes from the Notre Dame campus. Sporting a solid brick interior and a handmade oak bar, Scotty’s is the perfect place to catch the game or grab a quick bite to eat.

Scotty’s has a few macaroni and cheese options including original cheddar (served with bacon or bleu cheese at your request) and a spicy “Buffalo Mac” option. However, the “Lakehouse Mac” is by far their most popular and we can see why. Warning: this isn’t your grandmother’s mac and cheese. Served with grilled chicken, peas, bacon, garlic and basil, these cavatappi noodles are drenched in a delicious four-cheese sauce of sharp cheddar, parmesan, monterrey jack and romano. And as if that weren’t enough, this to-die-for dish is topped with heavenly breadcrumbs, grated parmesan and parsley. Did we mention the breadcrumbs are made from Scotty’s croutons (meaning these little bites of heaven pack even more butter and garlic into each delightful bite!)? We’re still drooling over this one.

While you’re there, you’ll want to be sure to sample a few beers, brewed at Scotty’s own brewery in Broad Ripple, Indiana, too!

 

The Prized Pig

Classic Mac & Cheese
 

33331 US-12
Niles, MI 49120
(269) 262-4956
www.prizedpigbbq.com

Near the end of Ironwood on a wooded corner, sits the Prized Pig BBQ. As you walk up to the building, prepare to be greeted by the wafting aroma of authentic barbecue. Upon entering the Prized Pig, one immediately sees a cozy, simply decorated space with the large flat screen TV prominently displayed. Whether you’re dining alone or with a small group of friends, this restaurant is a place where you can get lost for a while in the tastes and smells of barbecue. 

We ordered the “Mac and Cheese” as a six-ounce side option, normally paired with ribs or brisket for an additional $2.50. It’s also available as a main dish in a pint- or quart-size, and priced at $4.99 and $9.99, respectively. When our order arrived, we were pleasantly surprised to see the dish dressed up with Applewood smoked bacon and panko breadcrumbs. The first bite was quite the surprise! Chef Tina’s take on mac and cheese with it’s double-blended cheese, four-spice blend, toasted breadcrumbs and Applewood bacon was rather different from the bland mac and cheese you might expect from similar establishments. If you like your m ‘n c with a bit of a kick, this is the dish for you. 

After our meal, we spoke with owner Jeremy to ask him about this dish and his restaurant. We found him to be a personable guy who cares about his food, especially his customers’ enjoyment of it. His claim of “the most authentic BBQ in Michiana” seems from all appearances, to be a genuine one. So if you’re in the area and in search of some delicious BBQ with a side of zippy macaroni and cheese, be sure to give the Prized Pig a visit!

 

Oh Mamma’s

Creamy* Mac & Cheese Recipe
 

1212 Beyer Ave
South Bend, IN 46615
(574) 276-6918
www.facebook.com/OhMamma

You Will Need:

• 6-qt. Stock Pot – Filled with plenty of water and a dash of salt!

• Large Sauté/Frying Pan – You’ll need enough room to give the pasta and ooey-gooey goodness a stir!

• Baking Dish – Greased and capable of holding the above-listed contents!
 

Ingredients:

• 1 lb. Pasta – Choose a shape that is tubular, ridged (rigate), or has a lot of surface area for the yummy cheese sauce!

• 2 lbs. Cheese – Cheddars or any sharp cheese are common but don’t get stuck, mix it up with a blend and clean out that fridge!

• 1.5 cups Milk – We use whole for the good fat/vitamins however your choice should be based on your taste/diet!

• ½ cup Cream – Heavy, cooking cream, sour cream, fresh stock or lager perhaps, you should create your kind of creaminess!

• ½ cup Butter – Unsalted or salted and really any animal or plant fat will do, we’re making a roux!

• ½ cup Flour – Use what you have and give it a sift!

• Salt & Pepper – Around ½ tsp. of salt & ¼ tsp. of pepper but definitely to taste and please do!

• Herbs & Spices – Use your favorite flavors fresh or dried just calculate accordingly, we like to add a little heat or smokiness!

• 1 TBSP Oil – Any type of oil will do, we like to use EVOO with our pasta!
 

Directions

1. Preheat Oven to 350˚

2. Boiling salted water and oil for pasta, cook according to package less 1-minute and set aside

3. Hand shred cheese or place in a food processor and set aside

4. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium flame, sprinkle in the flour stirring until incorporated

5. Slowly pour in the milk & cream stirring the entire time, it will seem way too thick in the beginning

6. Add your salt & pepper and herbs & spices and lower your flame to medium-low

7. Stir softly and continuously until mixture has thickened, approximately 8 minutes

8. Carefully start adding the majority of your cheese mixing as you go, reserve around ½-cup

9. Add the cooked pasta and give the entire mixture several good turns for an even coating

10. At this point most children are happy to wolf down your warm velvety concoction, and you’ve probably had several bites 

11. Stop here if you want to just add the remaining cheese and any additional herbs, spices, or salt

12. Cook down/reduce the liquid for a few minutes over a low flame

13. For those that want to add a little crunch and further enrich this dish, Transfer everything into the greased casserole dish

14. Top with remaining cheese and place in the oven uncovered for about 20 minutes until the cheese is melted, golden, and bubbly

15. This dish easily serves & satisfies 8-10 or in our experience 5 with enough left over to bake again!

*If you don’t what the creamy calories choose low-fat cheeses, cut back on the liquids, or make a smaller dish!










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